2012-01-12 / News

Congress bans 100-watt light bulbs

Law shouldn’t affect island, most lights at schools, town buildings already replaced
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

Congress has turned the lights out on the 100-watt screw-in bulb, but so far, the news has barely caused a flicker of interest on the island, according to Jamestown Hardware’s owner, Scott Sherman.

In fact, the local store still has stock on the shelves and will be allowed to continue selling the 100-watt incandescent bulbs until supplies run out.

“We still carry them,” he said.

Manufacturers, however, have stopped producing the high-watt incandescent lights, said Lindsey Geisler, spokesperson for the Department of Energy. The government ban on 100-watt light bulbs went into effect Jan. 1, she said. The reason is that the incandescent light bulbs generate too much heat and waste energy. The incandescent bulbs are being phased out beginning with the 100-watt lights, but manufacturing will eventually also halt on the 75-, 60- and 40-watt bulbs.

Manufacturers will stop producing 75-watt bulbs on Jan. 1, 2013, but will continue making the 60- watt and 40-watt bulbs until 2014.

Geisler said customers will be able to find lights with equivalent brightness on the market.

“The incandescent light bulbs you’re used to will still be available, but they’ll cost you less on your electricity bill,” she said. She added that there are new energyeffi cient incandescent bulbs. They have a halogen filament, instead of a tungsten filament, and burn less energy. By comparison to the 100-watt bulb, the new bulbs burn about 72 watts, and their light output is measured in lumens. Today’s 100-watt bulb is roughly the equivalent of 1,600 lumens, she said.

Alternatives are compact fluorescent bulbs, which also save energy, but don’t shed as much light as the incandescent bulbs. A new, bright but expensive solution is the LED (light-emitting diode) light bulb, but those prices can range between $25 and $40 per bulb.

Both the compact fluorescent and the LED bulbs use about 75 percent less energy compared to the incandescent lights. The new energy-efficient incandescent bulbs use about 25 percent less compared to the old bulbs.

The cutover from incandescent bulbs has been in the works since 2007 when Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act.

“The common sense standards President Bush put in place – with broad bipartisan support and strong backing from industry – will save families and businesses $6 billion on their utility bills during tough economic times,” she said.

Congress late last year had taken steps to save the incandescent bulb, but then reversed itself and went along with the plan to end the manufacturing of 100-watt bulbs.

She did not have an estimate of the price of the new energyeffi cient bulbs. The old 100-watt bulbs cost pennies, but Geisler said any extra money for the bulbs would be offset by the savings in utility bills.

Geisler said the government is not keeping track of bulb prices because they have been dropping every six months.

So far, islanders have not run into the store looking for the 100- watt bulbs, Sherman said, but he’s prepared if people do.

“Nobody’s come in, as of yet,” he said. “But we have a little stockpile.”

The change also will not matter to the public schools, according to Lewis Kitts, the buildings and maintenance supervisor for the Jamestown School Department. Kitts doesn’t rule out the possibility some staff member may have squirreled away a few incandescent light bulbs somewhere inside the school buildings, but he has already replaced all 3,000 bulbs inside the classrooms and hallways with energy-efficient fluorescent lights. He also has replaced the exterior metal halide spotlights and parking lot floodlights with LEDs.

Kitts is working on the lights in the two schools’ gyms and the Melrose Avenue School’s multimedia room. He plans to replace the 400-watt metal halide lights with six T5 28-watt fluorescent lights, saving hundreds of watts of energy. He estimated the change would save 232 watts per hour on each fixture. According to Kitts, there are 12 fixtures.

“I’m way ahead of the curve because I’m trying to save electricity,” he said. Kitts added that he wanted to reduce the schools’ carbon footprints, and he thinks the switch to energy-efficient lights is inevitable. But, he added, lighting designers may still have work to do to satisfy the customers who expect soft lighting in the home.

“My personal opinion, in a household setting, the fluorescent light is a little bit harsh,” he said. However, General Electric has rolled out an LED light with a filter that comes close to the incandescent light’s glow.

As for town-owned buildings, an up-to-date lighting inventory was compiled for the new energy audit, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said.

“There may be a few isolated instances in which an office worker has provided an incandescent lamp for his or her personal workspace,” Keiser said. “That is the rare exception, however, as all town-provided lighting is fluorescent.”

He declined to make the entire inventory public because the energy audit is still in draft form.

“I can’t release it yet,” he said.

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